Roadbed in the Yards?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Herc Driver, Dec 8, 2008.

  1. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    I've been I work on my new layout, I've got the mainline track on a standard cork/foam roadbed. And that includes the yard tracks as well. My question is...are the yard tracks normally on the same grade as the mainline tracks? I thought - though I can't put my hands on a prototypical picture to prove it - that the mainline track was the best maintained and most ballasted section of line in and around a yard area. If that's the case, should the yard track necessarily be on the same level as the mainline? Or can I drop the mainline grade down to the common terrain grade that the yard tracks are sitting on - but ballast the mainline with greater care to highlight its importance?

    The reason I ask is that I didn't want all the yard turnouts to be at a different level than the yard tracks they serve - effectively making the yard sit lower than the mainline and perimeter turnout tracks. I'd like everything to be on the level, for not only appearance sake but also turnout reliability and functionality. The yard area here in Charlotte has tracks all over the place and on various grades. I'd like to model some of that, but I think the overall effect would be lost since I only have 14.5 inches of width to work with. I'm very constrained with this layout. About 16 feet of length, but only 14.5 to 22 inches width for a dog bone design. So trying to gain any elevation changes and make it look logical is a tough thing to model for me. I can't build mountains, or tunnels, or even great overpasses...the only thing I can do is adjust the elevation of the tracks by no more than an inch or so. (The layout is built on built-in, solid wood shelving units that rest against a load bearing wall. The wall runs vertically behind the shelving units but bends two inches above the back of the layout at a 45 degree angle to the ceiling. There's enough room at the back of the layout for the mainline to rest on roadbed.)

    So which do you do? Lower the mainline down to the yard level or boost the yard up to the mainline level which would make the yard tracks higher than the rest of the layout, roads and town/industry areas?
  2. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Yard tracks are generally not on ballast comparable to mainline tracks. I think the exception to this would be hump yards where cars are cut loose and allowed to coast through retarders to the correct track that the yard master wants them on. A derailment in a hump yard would have the potential to be catastrophic. Normal yards are not ballasted as well as the mainline tracks because the speeds are much lower in the yard, and because it is easier for crews to pull uncoupling levers if they don't have to climb up a high ballast hill. Many yards out here in So Cal are paved. All intermodal yards would be paved as well as any passenger equipment yards because of the need to have vehicle being able to either load/unload containers or trailers or the need for service vehicles to maintain passenger cars. Rip tracks tend to be unballasted, but tracks where loaded cars would be made up into trains will tend to have ballast, but not as well maintained as the mainline. I hope this answer helps. These are things I've noticed driving around and observing yards. I don't know if the professional railroaders here would have better answers. The main thing to remember is that when you have yard tracks on a different level than the mainline or sidings at a different level, allow the grade to change after the switch off the mainline and before the next switch. Put all of your switches on level bench work. Any twist in a switch will cause derailments.
  3. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Thanks Russ - the turnouts were exactly what I was worried about. Due to very limited layout width, one turnout leads to another and another to build the ladder tracks for the yard. So I really need to start decreasing the roadbed on the mainline tracks prior to entering the yard area - as my mainline "cuts" through the yard area. I can use wood shims to gradually lower the track elevation to "ground level" and then have all the yard tracks/turnouts and the mainline running through it on the same level. Then at the yard exit, use another shim to bring the mainline back "up" to the mainline roadbed level typical on the rest of the layout.

    Thanks Again!
  4. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Do you have a yard lead going off the mainline? It could be a track running parallel to the mainline, but it should be long enough to hold an entire train. The yard lead could start at the mainline at mainline height and then coming out of the switch let the track come down to yard level at the other end.
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    While there may be less ballast in the yard, the elevation may depend on the original terrain. In Brampton there is a siding parallel to the main track that feeds a bunch of spurs. This track goes up and down as they did less grading than on the flat main line. You could mak a yard highe than the main or lower or at the same level.
  6. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Essentially, the rule is that you can do it however you like, unless you are modeling a specific prototype, in which case you do it their way.
  7. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    You might consider having it only slightly lower, to enhance the look/realism (if desired) and to prevent any rolling stock from escaping (also as per the prototype).

    If you run your mainline on "full height" cork roadbed (about 1/4"), then you might look for 3/16 or 1/8 thick cork mat to put over the entire yard area before laying the yard tracks.

    But if you want to keep it all the same, there are plenty of prototypes for that too - e.g. Smith's Falls CPR yard sees all kinds of traffic, including passenger, and as far as I can tell, everything is at the same level.

  8. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Thanks for all the great input guys...I appreciate it.

    My problem is this...The layout is so narrow that having a dedicated lead, as well as all the other yard-common tracks is tough to pretty near impossible. As it is now, I have a west bound and east bound mainline that pass each eachother at the yard area. There's sort of a runaround track at each end of the yard and an engine service track. But there's really no provision for large scale car sorting and classification. East or west bound trains would need to be built built up with larger number of cars at a time instead of ones or twos. I'm going to look at everyone's ideas and see what I can do with the yard height.

  9. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Is your layout double tracked all the way around? If it is, it might make more sense to turn whichever track is closest to the yard into a lead and just single track in front of the yard. That makes a bit more of a challenge to operate as well. You can't just turn em loose and let em run. You need to make sure you set up your meets at the yard lead correctly.
  10. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Good point Russ and actually, I did basically just that. Due to limited space, I run a single mainline on a basic dogbone looping layout. I added a passing track equal to the longest train I anticipate running (plus a bit) parallel to the "northern" mainline, and parallel to the "southern" mainline/yard. This way, I can use the yard tracks without ever fouling the mainline. I can either use the passing track to completely avoid the yard, or use the mainline track that is effectively the southern most yard ladder. The only solution I can think of to get a "yard lead" into and out of the yard area is to lengthen the yard tracks to the maximum (I'd have to place the turnout for the yard lead immediately after the dog bone loops at each end of the layout). If I did this, I could add a few inches of yard lead off the mainline, but no where near enough to handle a full 15+ car train that my boys like pulling. So back to the original question...If I make that change and add more yard lead, I'd probably elect to lower the mainline and mainline passing track, as well as all the yard tracks to the same grade. Or possibly, keep the mainline track at "roadbed height" and the passing and yard tracks on ground elevation effectively setting off the mainline from the other tracks.

    To make this all make more sense, In the coming days - time and holiday permitting - I'll try to post a picture of the track plan on the "track planning" section for everyone's opinion how to handle the limited space I have to get this yard properly designed.

    Again - my thanks for the great input and ideas!
  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    In that case, take a lesson from David's post (60103 user name) and make the yard at the same level as the mainline, but raise up the contours of the ground under the yard so that your yard doesn't look like it has the same ballast as the mainline.
  12. brakie

    brakie Active Member

  13. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Thanks again for the input guys...

    Hey - it's all about keeping those LPP safe on the workplace - I can't afford a union grievence!

    I think that might be just the thing...keep the mainline and yard at the same "roadbed" elevation but have the mainline ballast slightly different to show more care and maintenance to the mainline. The yard will be raised sufficiently to allow about a rails height above the ground/ballast level.

    (I'm also glad to see a slight bend in those yard tracks...looks just like mine...didn't know I was that prototypical.)
  14. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    The way I did it was put the yard and all sidings on the board and raise the main line. that way there is no danger of cars rolling onto the main. My yard leads (2) are same height as main then just as they go into the yard they drop down. as you can see (I hope) in this pic [​IMG]

    her in this pic you can see the siding for REA is lower than the main [​IMG]
    I have had cars roll out on previous layouts. I hope this helps
  15. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Thanks Les - it helps and looks pretty good too! I might try to get just a little more height to the mainline track than the yard, just to highlight their importance and set it off against the yard. The yard tracks will be ballasted uniformly, but not as well maintained as the mainline.
  16. KentBy

    KentBy GN, NP, SP&S

    Lester, can you explain how you did it.

    I am new to MRR. How did you support the grade transition? How long was the transition from the main to the yard?


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